The Forward Theatre Project is a collective of writers, designers and directors that came together in 2009 to encourage emerging theatre outside of London. With members including Nick Payne, Frazer Flintham and Ellen McDougall, and an associate artist partnership with Paines Plough, the company has gone from strength to strength. We caught up with Artistic Director Charlotte Bennett to find out what it’s all about…
How did Forward Theatre Project come about?
I was doing a development week at York Theatre Royal in 2009 and got talking to the Artistic Director, Damian Cruden, about young and emerging artists working outside of London.
There is a myth that all emerging artists have to move to London, and an assumption that regional theatres don’t have opportunities for emerging artists to get involved. That’s something we wanted to address.
Damien gave me the task of getting together a group of emerging writers, directors and designers, who were interested in working outside of London, and in return he brought together 10 artistic directors from different national theatres. We all had a big meeting at York Theatre Royal and out of that, the emerging practitioners became Forward Theatre Project.
What happened next?
Since then we’ve developed a collective way of working, where a director, writer and designer are on board with a project from the very beginning of an idea.
We encourage non-competitive generosity among peers. We share ideas, people bring in scripts and there is a genuine sense of support for each others’ work.
What advice do you have for emerging theatre practitioners about working outside London?
Don’t assume anything. When I moved to London I assumed there weren’t opportunities outside London, and that was completely wrong.
Also, make sure your work is targeted in the right way. Don’t just work outside London for the sake of working outside London.
If you think you might be interested in taking something to, say, Manchester, then go up there and see what kind of thing is on already.
Finally, base yourself where you’re happy and then just be prepared to travel around to make stuff happen.
There is an idea that regional theatres don’t have as many resources, but particularly in terms of space, they often have more than many London theatres. They’ll often have a studio space and a main house space; they’ll have rehearsal rooms; they’ll have storage facilities. Pilot Theatre, for example, set up their company in a dressing room in York Theatre Royal.
What are you working on at the moment?
Our current project is called Scarberia by Evan Placey. It was commissioned as part of the York Theatre Royal’s Takeover Festival, which is a youth festival where every role at the theatre is taken over by a young person.
As a collective we went to the Takeover team with eight different proposals for a new piece of theatre, in York, for young people. They commissioned Scarberia: it’s a crime thriller about a woman’s body getting washed up on the beach in Scarborough in the UK, when a woman has simultaneously gone missing in Scarborough in Canada.
We’ve worked in both cities and set up an international pen pal system between the young people involved. It will also be live-streamed to Canada from the York Theatre Royal and then will hopefully travel to Scarborough in Canada next year. It’s really exciting to be part of such an ambitious youth project.
How can IdeasTap members get involved in Forward Theatre Project?
At the moment we’re trying to extend the collective to include producers, to play an active part alongside my role as Artistic Director, as a steering group. We need people to make all these amazing ideas happen.
To find out more about Forward Theatre Project, including their Scratch my City nights, visit the website.
Scarberia will be at the York Theatre Royal from Thursday 24 May to Saturday 2. For more information, visit the York Theatre Royal website.
Sign up to IdeasTap for advice, funding, opportunities and our weekly newsletter – with all the latest arts jobs.